Miranda Cuckson / Thomas Sauer

Music by Ross Lee Finney

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Outside academic circles, the music of Ross Lee Finney is seldom performed, recorded, or enjoyed, partly due to its gray ambiguity -- neither avant-garde "fish" nor conservative "fowl" -- but also because it seems overly cerebral and cautious. Finney's mingling of serial techniques with a modified tonality in traditional forms often seems to work at cross-purposes; yet apart from any difficulties this hybridization may cause theoreticians, lay listeners may find that Finney's music is stylistically ambivalent and aloof in expression, much like Hindemith in his most utilitarian manner. As performed by violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Thomas Sauer, Finney's music is at least listenable; rather than focusing on its various problems, they emphasize its most appealing qualities: the witty references to Baroque music in the Fantasy in two movements for solo violin (1958), the almost Classical phrasing and repartee in the Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (1951) and the Sonata No. 3 in A (1954), and the gregarious populism in Fiddle-doodle-ad: Eight American Folk Tunes (1945). If this CD has lasting interest, it is more to Cuckson's and Sauer's credit than to the music, for this duo offers an attractively balanced sound and a sympathetic expression in their performances that makes Finney's chamber works sound more appealing than they really are, and Centaur gives them better audio reproduction than they usually receive.

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